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Best practices for media covering Russia and the Sochi Games

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Last updated: February 4, 2014


Click here for a list of possible interviews.

A media spotlight will galvanize global attention necessary to Russia's anti-LGBT laws, as well as tell the stories of LGBT Russians. The following are guidelines, as well as common pitfalls for journalists. Media is one of the only safe places for athletes to express their views on the law, therefore it is important for journalists to include questions about LGBT Russians and the anti-propaganda law in interviews.

Do not rely on Putin and government officials to describe the environment for LGBT people in Russia. Speak to Russian LGBT people – anonymously, if necessary

Be sure to speak to Russian LGBT people directly, but be prepared for them to speak anonymously. Russia's anti-LGBT 'propaganda' law puts LGBT people in danger just for being open and honest about their lives. However, it is important that their stories are told.

Use a personal lens in your reporting

  • Ask for a personal story, both the joys and challenges of being LGBT.
  • Ask about relationships -- many couples have been together for several years.
  • Ask about safety and support.

Focus on what it is like to be LGBT in Russia.

  • Russians today are not in regular contact with LGBT people like in the U.S. – they do not open their newspaper and read about LGBT families or see openly LGBT celebrities, athletes, politicians, or corporate leaders. In Russia, only the state- controlled media and political officials talk about LGBT people, usually in hateful ways and often comparing them to criminals. Essentially, educating Russians about the lives of LGBT people and their families is illegal.
  • The law promotes violence against LGBT people by demonizing their identities –a result, incidents of anti-LGBT violence are on the rise.

If traveling to Russia:

  • Sample talking points:
    • I want my presence in Russia to be a sign of hope and solidarity for LGBT people in Russia.
    • I'm aware of the bubble of protection that we are being afforded [during the Olympics], and my heart goes out to all those LGBT people here in Russia, who are being targeted simply because of who they are.
    • While I am in Russia, I will be speaking out and expressing support for LGBT people in Russia with a simple message: you are courageous, you are on the right side of history, and you are loved for who you are.
  • When interviewing athletes or others involved directly in the Games:
    • Consider asking if they support Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter, which recognizes that “the practice of sport is a human right" and that every individual must be able to practice “without discrimination of any kind.”  The International Olympic Committee is obligated to "act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement."
  • Consider asking if they are aware of Russia’s crackdown on human rights and LGBT people specifically and what they think about it. Sample questions:
    • Are you aware that LGBT people have been targeted for violence over the past year, about the same time that the new "anti-propaganda" law was passed? (if not, provide information on the attacks listed above)
    • Do you think Russia's "anti-propaganda" law contributes to violence against LGBT people?
    • LGBT people have been arrested in Russia for holding a rainbow flag under the country's "anti-propaganda" law. Does this law go too far in controlling the actions of its citizens?
    • Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the anti-propaganda law doesn't harm LGBT people, but only protects minors. Do you believe that statement? What about laws that protect LGBT minors?
    • Sports has become more LGBT inclusive over the past couple of years in the United States. Do laws like Russia's inhibit LGBT-inclusive sports on a global level?
  • Consider asking if LGBT athletes should have equal opportunities for participating in international sporting events.
  • Social media is also a place for your network and staff to express solidarity for LGBT Russians such as:
    • While we report from #Sochi, we remember the hardships faced by LGBT Russians. #Sochi2014 #UprisingOfLove
    • After the Olympics, LGBT Russians will still face inequality and violence. #Sochi #Sochi2014 # UprisingOfLove
    • We stand in solidarity with LGBT Russians who face violence and inequality in their country #Sochi #Sochi2014 # UprisingOfLove
    • As you watch coverage of #Sochi2014, remember the violence LGBT Russians face #Sochi # UprisingOfLove

 

Pitfalls to avoid

Avoid omitting coverage of Russia's anti-LGBT laws

  • Coverage of Russia or the Olympics should make note of Russia's anti-LGBT laws whenever possible. Omitting information about Russia's human rights abuses may give the impression that your news outlet is overlooking the safety of LGBT Russians or condones the country's anti-LGBT laws.

Avoid speaking only to Russian officials about LGBT people

  • Media outlets are not advised to rely solely on statements from Russian officials or International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials regarding LGBT people. Assertions of safety and the well being of LGBT people should be challenged.
  • Speaking with Russian LGBT advocates will likely paint a fuller and richer picture of the challenges that LGBT Russians face.

Avoid the comparison between LGBT people and pedophiles

Putin's comments about LGBT people and the safety of children should not be presented as facts. All of his phrasing implicitly, if not explicitly, states that LGBT people are a danger to children. He uses terms like "gay" and "pedophile" interchangeably, falsely conflating the two.  If Putin's statements are included, they should be paired with the scientific facts about LGBT not posing threats to children.

  • Anti-LGBT activists argue that LGBT people are inherently predatory to children, which psychological and social experts have disputed for more than a decade.
    • According to the American Psychological Association, "Heterosexual and gay men are equally likely to sexually abuse children. A perception that most perpetrators are gay men is a myth and harmful stereotype."
    • Professor of Psychology at the University of California at Davis, Gregory Herek, writes "The empirical research does not show that gay or bisexual men are any more likely than heterosexual men to molest children." He also notes "This well known lack of a linkage between homosexuality and child molestation accounts for why relatively little research has directly addressed the issue […] Proving something that is already widely known simply isn't a priority for scientists."

Avoid focusing attention on the gay bar in Sochi

  • The Mayak Caberet has attracted attention for being a gay bar in Sochi. There have been media visits and tours, ostensibly to demonstrate that LGBT people are not persecuted. However, according to the Daily Mail, the Mayak Caberet is actually one of the last gay bars in the Sochi area.
  • Elsewhere in the country, LGBT groups and gatherings have not fared as well. On November 16, gunmen opened fire on the Central Station, a gay club in Moscow.
  • Private gatherings of LGBT people, including an HIV support group and the Side by Side LGBT Film Festival, have come under attack. Russian authorities are not investigating or prosecuting those who committed the attacks.
  • Reporters would do well to ask about the fate of other gay bars in Sochi, outside of Mayak Caberet, as well as what patterns of patronage have occurred, and what LGBT advocate groups are available locally.

 

Russian story leads and ideas

LGBT people being fired after coming out

  • There have been a few high-profile firings of people who have come out as openly LGBT. Anton Krasovsky and Oleg Dusaev were both media figures on Russian television. After they came out as gay, both quickly lost their jobs. There have been other, less high-profile firings of openly LGBT people as well.

The LGBT movement in Russia

  • There are currently 11 paid LGBT advocates in the entire country of Russia. There are a handful of cultural, film, sport, advocacy, and legal LGBT organizations. Many people offer volunteer time and services, and often put their lives at great risk to be involved.

The role of U.S.-based anti-LGBT activists

  • U.S.-based anti-LGBT activists have been strong proponents of the Russia's anti-LGBT 'propaganda' law.
  • Scott Lively, president of Abiding Truth Ministries and director of Redemption Gate Mission Society, both currently based in Springfield, Mass., has called the Russian anti-LGBT laws, "one of the proudest achievements of my career." He sent a letter to Vladimir Putin saying "homosexualization" must be fought just so that we can "redeem the future of mankind from a Fascist Leviathan, just as we did in World War II." Lively has also been sued by the LGBT people of Uganda for inciting violence against them.
  • Lou Engle has outposts established all over the world through his International House of Prayer (IHOP). His anti-LGBT work in Uganda is well documented in the film God Loves Uganda, but he also has used IHOP missions in Russia to spread his anti-LGBT animus in that country.
  • Paul Cameron addressed Russian State Duma, which, according to one source, was “absolutely thrilled” to host him. Cameron has recommended that LGBT individuals be banned from teaching in schools because they are supposedly disproportionately likely to be pedophiles and are therefore a threat to children.
  • Austin Ruse, President of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, has stated, "I can’t point to any country of the world today that is a model for the rest of the world, except perhaps for Russia, which has just taken the very important and frankly necessary step of criminalizing homosexual propaganda to protect the society from being ‘homosexualzed.’ [sic] This was one of my recommendation [sic] to Russian leaders in my 50-city tour of the former Soviet Union in 2006 and 2007."

Russian Open Games

  • The Russian Open Games run from February 26 -March 2 in Moscow. The goal of the Games is to promote healthy lifestyles, physical activity and sports among LGBT adults and its supporters. The program will include cultural elements as well – film screenings, psychology study groups, photo exhibitions, parties, and entertainment. The event is open to those who could support the development of sports in the Russian LGBT community.

Attacks on private meetings of LGBT People

  • In November, the Side by Side LGBT Film Festival in St. Petersburg was disrupted five times because of bomb threats, including an event featuring Academy Award-winning filmmakers Bruce Cohen, Dustin Lance Black, and Gus Van Sant. Also in November, two men wearing ski masks and carrying air guns attacked the Russian HIV/AIDS organization, LaSky.

Gangs targeting and filming the torture LGBT people

LGBT asylum seekers

  • The number of LGBT asylum seekers is increasing, not only from Russia, but from other countries like Uganda, where legal persecution of LGBT people is on the rise. A number of asylum organizations in the United States are working to provide assistance.

GLAAD's 24/7 resource and assistance availability

For more information, help, and guidance, please contact GLAAD. We can put you in contact with the above interview subjects, provide resources, facts and ideas to tell the stories of LGBT Russians.

Rich Ferraro
Vice President of Communications
646-871-8011
rferraro@glaad.org

Ross Murray
Director of News
646-871-8040
rmurray@glaad.org

Seth Adam
Senior Manager of Communications
646-871-8018
seth@glaad.org

 

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